bombay high court

Bombay High Court: In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against State Government of Maharashtra for unspent healthcare budget, the Division Bench of Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya, CJ. And Arif S. Doctor, J. expressed concerns and directed the State Government and Maharashtra Public Service Commission (‘MPSC’) to ensure expeditious filling of vacancies on several posts and expenditure and procurement of drugs and medical equipment as per the budget sanctioned.

The Court perused the affidavit filed by Dinesh Waghmare, Principal Secretary to Government of Maharashtra in the Department of Medical Education and Drugs and prima facie found that the entire budget sanctioned for procurement of drugs and medical equipment was not spent. The Court further took note of the Advocate General’s submission that the process of procurement of drugs and medical equipment had gained pace after constitution of the Procurement Authority under the Maharashtra Medical Goods Procurement Authority Act, 2023.

The Court expressed that “We, thus, expect that adequate and appropriate steps shall be taken to spend the budgetary allocation in its entirety, otherwise, after sanctioning the amount, if it is not used, the same gets lapsed at the cost of the health care system.”

The Court highlighted the charts depicting occupancy and vacancy positions in different posts, both in the Departments of Medical Education and Public Health and took them on record. The said data depicted that several thousand sanctioned posts were vacant, which led the Court to comment that “at least, 1/3rd Group “C” posts are vacant in the hospitals being run by both these departments. The Group “C” posts include the posts of nursing staff as also various technical staff involved in diagnostics etc. Any vacancy against these posts is bound to hamper the health care facilities and services in the hospitals being run by the State. Thus, it is needless to say that there is an urgent need to fill up all such vacancies, not only Group “C”, but other vacancies also.”

Although, it was submitted on behalf of the State that several steps had been taken by the Government to ensure timely filling the vacancies in State hospitals, and that the Advocate General was personally supervising the steps being taken by the State Government in this regard, ensuring that the Commission had been taking appropriate steps for filling up all the posts lying within the purview of MPSC, the Court opined that the process of recruitment needed further expedition. Therefore, the Court directed the State Government as well as MPSC to act more promptly to expedite the process of recruitment of staff at various levels.

Regarding the Court’s previous concern over giving full-fledged charge of the post of Chief Executive Officer of Procurement Authority created under the Procurement Act of 2023, the Court noted that an officer was appointed for the same. The Court expressed appreciation towards the efforts of Advocate General and also, conveyed the expectation and hope that the procurement of drugs and other medical equipment shall catch pace and staff in adequate number shall be provided to the end-users at the earliest after appointment of a full-fledged Chief Executive Officer.

The Court further required an additional affidavit by the State Government providing details regarding the steps taken for filling up of the vacancies in different posts and cadres, further containing reply on specific terms of the previous order passed on 6-10-2023 by the Court. The Court specifically directed for the said affidavit to clearly indicate regarding the steps to be taken by State Government and other related authorities to ensure that the sanctioned budgetary allocation was spent, and also, disclose reasons on why entire budgetary allocation was not released and spent earlier.

In addition, the Court also directed MPSC to give a timeline for completion of the recruitment process against posts falling within its purview. It specifically directed the MPSC Secretary and Chairman to consider how the timeline for completion of process of recruitment as indicated by the Advocate General, could be shortened further.

The Court listed the next hearing on 1-02-2024.

[Khalil Ahmad Hasanmiya Wasta v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 2693, Order dated 8-12-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Advocate Mohit Khanna, Amicus Curiae, Advocate Rakesh Bhatkar, Advocate Satish Raut, Advocate Mohan Devkule, Advocate General Dr. Birendra B. Saraf, Government Pleader P.P. Kakade, Additional Government Pleader O. A. Chandurkar, AGP R. A. Salunkhe

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